Tele-Sales: A Brief Overview

Why Telemarketing?

Tele-sales or telemarketing is the obvious job of choice for those who would rather work behind the scenes in sales.  I worked in theater for some years, and when I felt I no longer wanted the pressures of working in front of large audiences, and the grueling task of performing in 8-12 shows per week, I found a job in telemarketing that paid my bills, and kept me at a single location; it was located close to home, and was not physically confrontational.

My life in telemarketing

~My First Job

Setting up applications for bank loans was my first real telemarketing job (I had tried working a position at a firm in Manhattan very briefly in the ‘eighties, but it did not suit, and I reverted back to my old stand-by of waiting tables).  The bank loan job did not seem to have a future, but served a purpose:  it made me familiar with how to present products and services over the telephone.  After some trial and error at this early point in my call-center career, I moved to a new job in the mortgage industry.

~The Accidental Salesman

Without intending to, I became somewhat of a salesman, as my grandfather had also been.  Refinancing was the name of the game, and fortunately, while I was involved, the loans were, by and large, non-volatile.  I basically gained the confidence of each customer, to prepare them to accept a refi proposal from a loan officer.  Their rate went down a couple of points, and our company earned a fee for facilitating that.  I went on to help with training and management, and learned some basic skills into the bargain.

~Back to the West Coast

On my return to California, after a five year partnership at a service company in the San Francisco Bay Area, where much physical labor was involved, I started my third call center job, this time in residential solar.  I set appointments for the sales team to quote interested parties.   I also did some selling, and got to train many fellow call center reps — the latter a task I especially enjoy.  .  

Here are some basic things I have learned in this field that may help you in a similar career:

Setting appointments for salespeople

There are a few key areas which you must learn:

  1. Know, understand, listen to, and respect the person(s) you are speaking to.  The other items on this list are vastly subordinate to this one on many levels, as a person who feels you are attentive to their needs and words is more likely to want to buy from your company.

If you are a natural at this, which I doubt, have at it.  If not, read, study, practice, and ask others how to be effective in this.  It will serve you well throughout your life.

  1. Be an expert in your product and/or service

This will free you to discuss matters intelligently with your customers and prospects, as you navigate their preferences, the data, and your objectives.

Ask questions, surf the web, read books and articles, go to seminars, watch videos…whatever works for you.  Never tire of this.

  1. Become expert in using and navigating databases and programs/apps.  

This will allow you to achieve objectives in the time allowed; this will further facilitate a higher close percentage, as your sales team will be able to easily access needed data.

Take an extra minute to learn something new.  Don’t dally getting your tasks done, but try to better understand what you are doing.  Perhaps you are using a database repeatedly, and there is something about it you do not understand.  Do not jeopardize your tasks to learn, but Google questions, and ask co-workers when you have a free minute.  Remember that some will be more helpful, and some will be verbose.  Guard your work time, and thank those who take time out to help.  Mostly though, take time outside of work, if practical, and study, study, and try.

  1. Residential cold calling

Cold calling means the person you are calling has no expectation you are calling, may have no idea you/your firm exist, and may have zero interest in what you provide. 

Cold calling is basically improvisation.  Be honest, and be prepared to say, “I don’t know, but I am noting that to find out for you ASAP!”  Having steps 1,2,3 above, as ready as possible, will facilitate cold calling.

Know your objectives.  If your objective is to set an appointment, and you are cold calling, be sure to be polite, and be sure to bring the most important information out at the start of the call:  

“Hi, my name Brendan, and I’m calling for ABC Mortgage, how are you today?”, may work, but,”Hi, Brendan from ABC Mortgage here, I was hoping to lower your mortgage rate, did you have a couple of minutes?”, may be better, in some cases.  

Cold calling is a delicate matter, as you are interrupting someone’s day, even though your objective is to help them, they may not want help; from you; at this time.

There is certainly a balance between courtesy and being heard.  The first is foremost, in my opinion, but the latter is key to your job.

The main thing about cold calling is to keep your objective in mind, communicate your objective quickly, demonstrate value immediately, and to be considerate of the person you are talking to.

Again, if you can capture their interest in a few seconds, then you will be well on your way to success.

  1. Residential warm calling

Warm calling is a bit different.  A warm call is a call to someone who has directly or indirectly shown interest in your business.  

With a warm call, to set an appointment for your sales team, for example, you simply have to answer objections, communicate value, obtain needed data, convey aspects of your business model, and coordinate calendars.

Many warm calls end briefly with a voicemail or email, or with the prospect saying they prefer to delay setting an appointment, have gone with a competitor, or are no longer in the market.  Your job here is to respond in a way that is gracious and effective, in communicating well, and building business.  That could mean “converting” them to a sale nonetheless, getting referral business, ensuring future sales potential, wishing the callee well, getting them to go with your company instead, or removing them from the contact list.

  1. Balancing tasks and setting priorities

The longer you work in a particular call center, the more tasks you may have.  There may be more follow up of past customers, more retention work, referral business, and a greater load of general administrative tasks.  

The idea here is to be very organized and proactive.  Creating reminders, databases, and prioritizing tasks is key to success, and to keeping up with your workload.  Brevity becomes needful, though some communication will be prolonged.  

Try to control your call time, but also realize the need to downshift, when a task or call takes more time.  Streamline what you can as much as you can, so when the occasional lengthy one-off comes, you are not backlogged too much on what is getting pushed out.

  1. Climbing the right ladders

You want to make sure you are honest and straightforward with everyone.  There will be situations when you are tempted to gloss over facts, or to not say how you feel.  It is important to keep things simple, state the facts, and say you don’t know, but can ask, if needed.

When interacting with co-workers, be honest, discreet, friendly, and professional.  Don’t get involved in negative discussions, but be sympathetic and understanding too, realizing controversy and discord  can occur at times, between co-workers.

  1. Selling

Appointment setting is selling, but you don’t often need to provide a quote or forecast, and in many cases, it may be counterproductive, impractical, or against policy.  Everyone has a task they are trained for.

Sometimes, however, as you become more adept, you may naturally and gradually transition to a sales role, or another type of job.

Coda

So, now you’ve read a primer on telesales; now it is up to you to get that job and see what you can do…I wish you great success!

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